Thursday, June 4, 2009

The 800 Pound Gorilla

A couple of my friends responded to my last post. Thomas responded as below (sic):

We can so amply display God's glory and truth through the love of Christ that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. I believe that the stage settings are God's domain and we rejoice in the knowledge of the fact that He is always with us. That is His promise. So yes we can be sure that nothing that is not in God's will can happen in our lives. The verses that come to mind are (KJV), Matthew 10:

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

And also (KJV) Philippians 4:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

" In everything by prayer...with thanksgiving..."

Isn't this suggesting that in all things we can give thanks knowing that God will respond in accordance to His love and mercy towards us? We can rest in His faithfulness. We can pray without a presumed outcome and simply praise God for his goodness and celebrate his companionship knowing that our circumstances are in His hands.When Jesus prayed in the garden of gethsamene was he not rolling His cares upon His father.He was not trying to influence God's will was He? He didnt have to do that He had only to ask and God would have sent Him his heavenly hosts. He was simply drawing comfort from His father in heaven and trusting God's will with the eventuality. God can do far more than we can ask or imagine. And the Bible also says that the Lord knows our prayers even before it is on our lips.

(KJV)Matthew 6:
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

If He is for us who can be against us?

Susan responded this way (sic):

In so many of life's situations we are all doubters and to see how God works through all of our shortcomings and the process of perfecting His will for us is nothing short of amazing. His faithfulness in making sure we run the race and come out victorious has never failed to touch me. More and more I am convinced that He will stop at nothing to ensure that we are people of godly character and the standards are His and not ours.

Many times, I feel like He has forgotten me and I am in this abyss with no help or support. But from somewhere He comes and shows me how much He cares. It does not mean that the problem disappears but just that He is with us and has not forgotten us.

I'm examining my own thoughts and wondering why I'm unable to trust fully in God's faithfulness in spite of repeated demonstrations and the Bible's insistence on his beneficence. I wonder why. Could it be that it is tougher to put into practice what I claim to believe with my lips and mind? I think that is part of it, but there may be something else.

It takes me to a sermon I heard in our church a year or so ago. Based on the book of Philippians, the pastor asked us the question: 'What is the 800-pound gorilla in the room?' He answered it for us: Death. Paul is writing this joyful letter with dealth looming large in his prison cell, but he is the one who is encouraging the Philippians, asking them to rejoice in the Lord always. The pastor also let us know that death is the 800-pound gorilla at all times whether we acknowledge it or not. We are so unused to the idea of the unpredictability of death that we are almost always unprepared for it. Yet it is the one certainty in our physical lives.

When a situation like this happens to us our thoughts turn towards our earthly responsibilities. We try to plug the holes that we can and we are forced to trust God beyond that. Many of us do this with difficulty, with trembling hearts and hoping against hope.

What do we do when this happens to a loved one? When it is an unbeliever who is suffering? Our need to share the Gospel is so imperative and the importance of offering temporal comfort so pressing, and we feel the pressure of the situation much more than the comfort of God's beneficence. Does it comfort us that God is in control when we know that someone is dying without Christ?

The only comfort I have in this situation is this: if we care so much about unbelievers, how much more does God care? He died for them and we know he does care. We can trust him fully to deal with all of us with perfect justice and perfect mercy. If we know that these unbelievers die to face an eternity away from God's presence, will we be truly comforted in eternity? When Paul makes the comment, '...I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race...' (Romans 9:3), what does he mean? Isn't this the sentiment of a man in agony over his brothers' damnation? If that is the way we feel as believers, does not the Holy Spirit grieve with inexpressible grief as to those who are perishing? When the Bible tells us that God Himself will wipe away each tear from our eyes in eternity, does it mean that our delight will be mixed with this grief? Do we need to be so comforted in heaven- or am I reading too much into the text?

I've said before that I'm happy to simply stir the pot even if I do not find answers. There must be a perfect explanation for this, I'm sure, which I do not understand. 'Beneficence' is one of the thirty cent words that theologians throw around to describe God's character. Thi is basic to our understanding of God and is central to God's actions throughout the Bible and through the ages. I do not doubt it at all. But if we were to take this beneficence for granted, I cannot imagine how we would ever witness to an unbeliever. As I have said before, the Bible contains verses which preserve this tension ('work out your own salvation with fear and trembling') while we rest in the knowledge that God's salvific action is sufficient for our redemption.

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